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Law School Case Brief

Lannan v. State - 600 N.E.2d 1334 (Ind. 1992)

Rule:

In Indiana, abandoning the depraved sexual instinct exception does not mean evidence of prior sexual misconduct will never be admitted in sex crimes prosecutions. It means only that such evidence will no longer be admitted to show action in conformity with a particular character trait. It will continue to be admitted, however, for other purposes such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake. That is, such evidence may be admissible despite its tendency to show bad character or criminal propensity, if it makes the existence of an element of the crime charged more probable than it would be without such evidence.

Facts:

Defendant was convicted of one count of child molesting under Ind. Code Ann. § 34-42-4-3(c). A witness, also a minor, testified that defendant fondled her before he engaged in intercourse with the victim. The victim and the witness also testified that defendant had fondled them in one incident in the past and that he had molested the victim on three occasions after the alleged crime. The testimony was admitted pursuant to the depraved sexual exception. The intermediate appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision. Lannan's petition for transfer asks this Court to abandon the so-called "depraved sexual instinct" exception under which evidence about these uncharged acts was admitted. 

Issue:

Should the Indiana common law “depraved sexual instinct exception” be abandoned in favor of the standard set forth by Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), which provides, in essence, that evidence of uncharged prior bad acts are not admissible?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

On appeal, the court abandoned the depraved sexual exception, and held that Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) was to be used in determining whether evidence of prior sexual misconduct with children should be admitted. The court applied Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) and concluded that the testimony from the witness about the events which happened just prior to the time the charged crime were admissible under res gestae. The court held that the other testimony of the witness and the victim was inadmissible under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). Abandoning the depraved sexual instinct exception does not mean evidence of prior sexual misconduct will never be admitted in sex crimes prosecutions. It means only that such evidence will no longer be admitted to show action in conformity with a particular character trait. It will continue to be admitted, however, for other purposes such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake. "That is, such evidence may be admissible despite its tendency to show bad character or criminal propensity, if it makes the existence of an element of the crime charged more probable than it would be without such evidence." 

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